By Alli Dayton, Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic changed numerous aspects of Gettysburg College this year, including admissions processes. For prospective students, tour guides, and other members of the admissions staff, the Admissions Office is operating differently than it has in previous years. According to Dean of Admissions Gail Sweezey, the college “designed a series of virtual connection opportunities for students to learn about Gettysburg” given the presence of fewer in-person options on-campus.
The Gettysburg College website now offers virtual information sessions, virtual interviews, chats with current students, and virtual events on topics of interest to prospective students. Some of the virtual events included “Applying to Gettysburg College,” “Financial Aid and Merit Scholarships,” and “Campus Life at Gettysburg College,” along with specialized options for the Sunderman Conservatory of Music and international students. Sweezey said that “one of the really positive things” about these virtual opportunities is that “[the college] can connect with first-generation and international students” on a greater scale.
Prospective students could also choose to participate in limited in-person tours on-campus. Tour guide Sam Hann ’21 said that students experience “an hour of walking around campus and [learning] about the buildings.” According to tour guide Timmy Wilson ’21, tours are “more about telling and showing with your words,” because families are unable to enter buildings due to de-densification and restrictions on campus.
While she enjoys leading tours, Hann noted that “one of the greatest challenges so far is when it is raining and [she’s] standing in the rain with a family for an hour.” Wilson echoed this statement, saying that “the hardest thing is not being able to go inside” because he knows that families have hope that “their tour guide may be willing to break the rules” to allow them to see the inside of academic buildings and dorm spaces.
Hann and Wilson each agreed that students are “really grateful that the college is doing in-person tours,” given that many colleges are not allowing prospective students on their campuses. In fact, Hann shared that she has “received so many thank-you emails” from students who are “more verbal [this year] about their recognition and appreciation.”
Although students are glad to be visiting campus, they seem concerned about their chances of acceptance, according to Sweezey, Hann, and Wilson. “Many students are worried about ACT and SAT scores,” said Hann. “They’re really stressed about getting in.” Sweezey reiterated these concerns, stating that students are “nervous about testing,” but highlighting how “we are test optional” and have a holistic application process. “We have been very upfront with students because we understand,” she said.
Additionally, Wilson said that prospective students think they may not be accepted to the college because students from other class years chose to defer. He shared that he often reminds students that “we’re not looking to fill spots in the first-year class; we’re looking to fill spots at Gettysburg College,” which helps to alleviate their worries.
On the other hand, Sweezey said, “students are excited and asking really interesting questions about the college values and community.” Additionally, more prospective students are interviewing with the college this semester than ever before. So far, the volume of early decision applications received by the college is similar to previous years, with an anticipated number of applications between the numbers seen last year and the year prior.
Sweezey commended the efforts of the admissions staff, noting that they are “working hard and application numbers are hard to predict, but they’re moving in a very positive direction.”
Overall, the admissions office is optimistic about “showcasing the spirit of Gettysburg with a variety of opportunities for students and their parents” despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sweezey.